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Six Galaxy Clusters: Dark Matter is Darker Than Once Thought
MACS J0416.1-2403
MACS J0416.1-2403

  • A study of 72 galaxy cluster collisions sets new limits on how dark matter interacts with itself.

  • Dark matter is the mysterious substance that makes up most of the matter in the Universe.

  • X-rays from Chandra and optical data from Hubble were used to help narrow down the possibilities of what dark matter can be.

This panel of images represents a study of 72 colliding galaxy clusters conducted by a team of astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. The research sets new limits on how dark matter - the mysterious substance that makes up most of the matter in the Universe - interacts with itself, as reported in the press release. This information could help scientists narrow down the possibilities of what dark matter may be.

Galaxy clusters, the largest objects in the Universe held together by their own gravity, are made up of three main components: stars, clouds of hot gas, and dark matter. When galaxy clusters collide, the clouds of gas enveloping the galaxies crash into each other and slow down or stop. The stars are much less affected by the drag from the gas and, because they occupy much less space, they glide past each other like ships passing in the night.

Because the clouds of gas are very hot - millions of degrees - they glow brightly in X-ray light (pink). When combined with visible-light images from Hubble, the team was able to map the post-collision distribution of stars and also of the dark matter (blue). Astronomers can map the distribution of dark matter by analyzing how the light from distant sources beyond the cluster is magnified and distorted by gravitational effects (known as "gravitational lensing.")

The collisions in the study happened at different times, and are seen from different angles - some from the side, and others head-on. The clusters in the panel are from left to right and top to bottom: MACS J0416.1-2403, MACS J0152.5-2852, MACS J0717.5+3745, Abell 370, Abell 2744 and ZwCl 1358+62.

This study builds on previous findings involving Chandra and other telescopes, namely the work on the Bullet Cluster and other individual galaxy cluster collisions.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

Fast Facts for MACS J0416.1-2403:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland/D.Harvey & NASA/CXC/Durham Univ/R.Massey; Optical & Lensing Map: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)
Release Date  March 26, 2015
Scale  Image is 5.4 arcmin across. (About 5.7 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 04h16m 09.90s | Dec -24 03' 58.00"
Constellation  Eridanus
Observation Dates  6 pointings between Jun 2009 and Dec 2014
Observation Time  90 hours 5 min (3 days 18 hours 5 min)
Obs. IDs  10446, 16236, 16237, 16304, 16523, 17313
Instrument  ACIS
References Harvey, D. et al, 2015, Science (in press)
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Lensing Map (Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 4.29 billion light years (z=0.396)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for MACS J0152.5-2852:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland/D.Harvey & NASA/CXC/Durham Univ/R.Massey; Optical & Lensing Map: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)
Release Date  March 26, 2015
Scale  Image is 3 arcmin across. (About 3.2 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 01h 52m 34.45s | Dec -28 53' 42.23"
Constellation  Fornax
Observation Dates  17 Sep 2002
Observation Time  5 hours
Obs. IDs  3264
Instrument  ACIS
References Harvey, D. et al, 2015, Science (in press)
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Lensing Map (Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 4.43 billion light years (z=0.413)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for MACSJ0717.5+3745:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland/D.Harvey & NASA/CXC/Durham Univ/R.Massey; Optical & Lensing Map: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)
Release Date  March 26, 2015
Scale  Image is 4.5 arcmin across. (About 5.7 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 07h17m 33s.80 | Dec +37 45' 20.02"
Constellation  Aurigae
Observation Dates  29 Jan 2001, 8 Jan 2003, 11-13 Dec 2013
Observation Time  68 hours (2 days 19 hours 55 min)
Obs. IDs  1655, 4200, 16235, 16305
Instrument  ACIS
References Harvey, D. et al, 2015, Science (in press)
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Lensing Map (Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 5.4 billion light years (z=0.545)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for Abell 370:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland/D.Harvey & NASA/CXC/Durham Univ/R.Massey; Optical & Lensing Map: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)
Release Date  March 26, 2015
Scale  Image is 3 arcmin across. (About 3 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 02h 39m 50.5s | Dec -01 35' 08.00"
Constellation  Cetus
Observation Dates  22 Oct 1999
Observation Time  24 hours 45 min (1 day 45 min)
Obs. IDs  515
Instrument  ACIS
References Harvey, D. et al, 2015, Science (in press)
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Lensing Map (Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 4.11 billion light years (z=0.375)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for Abell 2744:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland/D.Harvey & NASA/CXC/Durham Univ/R.Massey; Optical & Lensing Map: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)
Release Date  March 26, 2015
Scale  Image is 7 arcmin across. (About 6 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 00h 14m 19.51s | Dec -30 23' 19.18"
Constellation  Sculptor
Observation Dates  5 pointings between Sep 2001 and Sep 2007
Observation Time  35 hours 15 min (1 day 11 hours 15 min)
Obs. IDs  2212, 7712, 7915, 8477, 8557
Instrument  ACIS
References Harvey, D. et al, 2015, Science (in press)
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Lensing Map (Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 3.5 billion light years (z=0.308)
distance arrow
Fast Facts for ZwCl 1358+62:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland/D.Harvey & NASA/CXC/Durham Univ/R.Massey; Optical & Lensing Map: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)
Release Date  March 26, 2015
Scale  Image is 3 arcmin across. (About 2.7 million light years)
Category  Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 13h 59m 50.60s | Dec +62 31' 04.00"
Constellation  Draco
Observation Dates  3 Sep 2000
Observation Time  15 hours 13 min
Obs. IDs  516
Instrument  ACIS
References Harvey, D. et al, 2015, Science (in press)
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Optical (Red, Green, Blue); Lensing Map (Blue)
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 3.72 billion light years (z=0.33)
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (20)

The article says that they are combining x-ray light with visible light. The blue is visible light not dark matter. That is why it is labeled optical.

Posted by Brandon Turner on Tuesday, 01.12.16 @ 22:53pm


What is the genesis of Dark Matter?
Why call this phenomenon Dark Matter?

Posted by J Yarkpazuo Wolobah, Jr. on Friday, 01.8.16 @ 08:37am


Pijush Banerjee
Given that Dark Matter is still beyond our technology to detect, our observations are based on the gravitational effect on surrounding matter. while theoretically possible that thermal increases would be detectable, our current lack of understanding in the full nature of DM makes a change in thermal properties similarly undetectable, we would have to observe thermal changes in surrounding matter, which are already being affected by the collisions themselves.

Posted by William Bowers on Tuesday, 12.8.15 @ 18:30pm


Following on from what Alex said, is it possible that the moving mass of galaxies warps space time which causes these unexplainable observations of light?

Posted by Tom on Monday, 12.7.15 @ 10:00am


Has dark matter and dark energy been viewed as maybe the same substance, having similar properties to water which can be a vapor, liquid or solid? Could it all be dark energy but be transformed into dark matter as gravity compresses it? Also if the universe was started by one big bang and everything spreads out in a circular motion do all the calculations being made take it account the fact that what we can observe is only a very, very small slice of a much bigger pie and wouldn't each supernova in a sense be a small new big bang in its own right?

Posted by scott on Sunday, 12.6.15 @ 04:35am


What do these observations tell us about what dark matter could be made of?

Posted by Clare Knowles on Friday, 11.13.15 @ 15:45pm


What about dark matter just being areas where there is no space time. Wouldn't those pockets still look like they bend light?

Posted by Alex Anelon on Saturday, 10.10.15 @ 03:17am


The majority of baryons created at atom formation were hydrogen and helium and most of the hydrogen rapidly became molecular. As we are unable to see radiation from molecular hydrogen and helium at astronomical distances, these may account for dark matter.

Posted by Brian Cook on Wednesday, 09.30.15 @ 15:11pm


Matter has to clump together in order to form clouds and stars. Any matter that has not been swept up in this way would be dark but still have effects on acceleration of the universe etc.

Could it be the case that in most of space matter has not clumped together sufficiently to be seen, so is still dark?

Posted by John Rayment on Friday, 09.25.15 @ 09:57am


Chris
The blue areas in the image shown to be dark matter are actually computer simulations of where it thinks dark matter is distributed Modelled by observing gravitational lensing.

Posted by Alex on Wednesday, 09.23.15 @ 10:29am


Maybe I just misinterpreted something, but how can we see dark matter if it's dark? It doesn't make sense. Dark matter is invisible, but we know it's there because of its physical effects. But I'm just a 17 year old, so what do I know.

Posted by Christian on Monday, 09.14.15 @ 17:52pm


During collision if gases become very hot can't the Dark matter because they are more dense?

Posted by Pijush Banerjee on Tuesday, 09.8.15 @ 09:35am


Dark invisible energy-matter can be seen surrounding star clusters, from your photos, reflecting light from the stars and varying their density with distance from the center.
The universe and beyond is made of high-energy particles continually in contact with each other varying in density from invisible billions per cc in space to solids requiring trillions per mm 3 in the core of black holes.

Posted by don hill on Tuesday, 09.1.15 @ 23:05pm


Sir, I want to know about dark energy in details. Also I want to research on this subject.

Posted by surajit das on Friday, 08.28.15 @ 15:00pm


As the building blocks of the universe are broken down and defined, so are the assumptions that were used to discover them.

Posted by Chris on Sunday, 06.14.15 @ 08:26am


I am 17, a Jr in high school alternative. My comment may be irrelevant to the conversation, but I would actually like to learn more of dark matter and dark energy.
Can anyone show me to an accurate source that can show me any and all studies on dark matter or dark energy from any early research to any research that has come up in recent years?

Posted by Daniel Castillo on Wednesday, 05.27.15 @ 15:40pm


Sorry, I must be a bit dim today but in what sense is the dark matter blue? I thought the dark matter was dark i.e. black. Can someone explain this? I am feeling like an idiot at the moment.

Posted by Chris on Sunday, 05.24.15 @ 10:22am


To all contributors of this information
Thank you a lot about this article. All your information very excited. Always will be a pleasure explore knowledge with you.

Posted by sergio flores on Thursday, 04.9.15 @ 20:56pm


If, as was described in News Articles about this finding, it is the case that Dark Matter has very little interaction with itself as it passes through itself, how is it that the Blue areas showing the Dark Matter have central points in the clouds which are more dense than the outside, as if it was gravitationally effecting itself like normal matter would.
If it had little to no effect on itself, surely it would be more uniformly distributed.

Posted by David on Wednesday, 04.1.15 @ 15:10pm


Has anyone proposed a theory of dark matter being a product of black hole emissions? Perhaps an exotic particle produced constantly when black holes are created and afterwards during their lifetime.

Posted by Jim on Wednesday, 04.1.15 @ 13:33pm


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